By Joe Earle
DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis says continuing declines in revenue and increases in costs mean the county needs to raise taxes this year.
In his State of the County address Jan. 6, Ellis said he has recommended an increase of 2.32 mills, which county officials estimate would increase the property tax bill for the owner of a typical DeKalb home by about $240 a year.
“These are tough times for all of us,” Ellis told about 400 people attending the breakfast speech at the Thalia N. Carlos Center on Clairmont Road. “The fiscal trials we are experiencing here in DeKalb are but a microcosm of what is happening in the state, across the nation and around the world. We still struggle to find our footing in the wake of a great recession.”
Ellis said county revenues have fallen by $86 million during the past two years as the value of DeKalb properties have declined and the city of Dunwoody was created, removing properties from the county tax rolls. He said county officials expect an additional decline of about $12.8 million this year and anticipated cost increases totaling $39 million.
The county has cut its costs by offering early retirement to 830 employees, the CEO said, and then eliminated 400 of those positions.
At the same time, the county has allowed its reserve fund to fall to about $9 million, he said, when it should be about $45 million. “For an organization our size, that’s like living paycheck to paycheck,” he said.
DeKalb County Commissioners will vote on Ellis’ proposed tax increase in June, a county spokesman said. The commission will consider county expenditures this month, he said.